Akshat Choudhary, Founder of BlogVault, will be facilitating the Portability topic at HostCamp 1.0 this year. Akshat has been a member of the WordPress community for nearly a decade and cares about understanding (and resolving) WordPress user frustration. One area of particular frustration is portability – moving WordPress from one host to another. Akshat has evolved the BlogVault product to address that issue.
What To Expect
Akshat will start with an overview of the current state of portability and share some of the lessons learned to migrate thousands of customers through BlogVault. From there, Akshat will open the topic to participants to ask questions and share their own perspectives and experience.
Q&A with Akshat
I asked Akshat a few questions and included his answers below.
Why should hosting companies care about data portability? (Rather than making it harder for customers to move away)
Many of the largest hosting companies have been built on the backs of non-proprietary platforms, many of them completely open. This ranges from LAMP stack, to using common control panels (e.g. cPanel or Plesk) to common billing systems (WHMCS) and more.
Web hosts are also some of the biggest proponents of WordPress. You see them contributing in every dimension from resources to offering the platform to their customers. There are many factors taken into consideration when this happens.
Openness is driven by many reasons in my opinion.
- Advantage of tapping into the bigger ecosystem— These ecosystems are often larger than the web hosts themselves.
- Trust— Customers don’t like to be locked into a platform and often avoid this.
- Double-edged situation— Customers are easier to find, but they are also easier to lose.
- Belief in mission— The democratization of publishing.
- Proprietary platforms are difficult to build and sustain.
We are now noticing proprietary platforms such as Wix, Shopify, and SquareSpace being successful. The success of these platforms can point out that many customers often value simplicity over openness.
Finally, web hosts often try to improve their value propositions (maybe even add lock-ins) in different forms. Certain acquisitions of web hosts such as StudioPress or StagingPilot guide us in this direction. There are others who have strong integrations such as LiquidWeb, which make migrations much more difficult.
There are also other ways in which lock-ins occur in the ecosystem. There may be many processes which we take for granted, but can be often difficult for many average consumers.
Across the tens of thousands of migrations you’ve seen with BlogVault, are there any highlights or horror stories that stand out?
Over the years, we have migrated almost a million sites. We had the opportunity to learn a lot and thus improve, during this period. One of the challenges we faced a lot in the early days was the way people would configure their systems to deal with different languages. There were inconsistent settings in the config file, the database and finally the actual content.
Large database imports have been tricky. Even after going to great lengths it is difficult to ensure that these are successful. The destinations of MySQL servers are often configured poorly, making it virtually impossible to import some sites.
Is there anything that you’d like to see happen in the WordPress Core Project (or just general suggestions) to improve portability?
Data portability happens on multiple layers, the most obvious being the portability of the entire WordPress site. Migrating a WordPress site is not trivial for sure and given its nature, I think WordPress has made a good choice of not trying to solve from the core.
But a site gets migrated many times during its lifecycle and not only when it moves across web hosts. One example is when you are overhauling a website’s design or theme. At these times you want to migrate content but not the entire site. While WordPress comes with import/ export functions, there is definitely a need for these to be more powerful.
Page builders are some of the most popular plugins out there. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to move away from the one-page builder once you have invested in them. If WordPress were to define the way these plugins stored all their data it would greatly improve the portability of such sites.